Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, making it the most significant event on the Christian calendar. However, in the spirit of diversity and inclusion, Guyanese throughout history have created traditions around the occasion that makes Easter celebrations in Guyana truly unique.
A promise of Redemption
In this edition of Government in Action, we explore the cultural elements of this holiday and rediscover the true religious significance of Easter. Apostle Claude Brooks of Love and Faith World Outreach Ministry tells us about the great love story of God keeping his promise of redemption to his people.
“Good Friday is exactly what it is. It’s a good Friday in a sense that it is a fulfilment of what was promised by God and this actually began way back in Genesis when… Adam sinned and was separated from God. Man lost his connection with God, his relationship with God… and God made a promise and that promise was the promise of redemption, to redeem man back to Himself… So, Good Friday was the day when the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, God’s only son, his blood was shed for the redemption of all mankind… paving the way…for man to be reconciled back to God, or fellowship, or relationship with God,” Apostle Brooks said.
While good Friday holds great significance, Apostle Brooks said that the true celebration comes with Christ’s resurrection.
“What is interesting with both Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, which is Easter Sunday, is that [they are] events which [were] prophesied in Scripture and… many of the old prophets talk about the death, burial, and resurrection…Paul said if the resurrection did not happen, the Christian faith would be in vain. As a matter of fact, the whole reality, the whole essence of the Christian faith hinges on the resurrection because… Jesus said, for us to be forgiven someone had to pay the price and Jesus paid that ultimate price for our redemption,” he said.
Apostle Brooks added, “The Bible says that God is love. He is the epitome of love. He is the author of love. The fact that he was willing to give his Son to die for the world, not just for a particular group of people, but for the whole world, is the best example of love. The Scripture actually tells us greater love has no man than this than he who lay down his life for his friends.”
This love, he said, is evident in the inclusive nature of Christ and reflected in the inclusive nature of Guyanese Easter traditions.
“He did not die to redeem a specific people or ethnicity or religious group. He died for mankind. You find certain holidays, particularly in Guyana, it is not just celebrated by Christians. You find people of every persuasion, whether they understand the significance [or not], they celebrate it. When you go on the sea wall, you would not just see, find one ethnic group or [only] Christians flying kite. You find every ethnicity within Guyana and every religious group and every people-group celebrating this activity. So, I believe that’s what’s so marvellous about it. It’s inclusive. And as the Scripture says, ‘whosoever will may come’. So, Jesus is never exclusive. That’s one thing about Jesus,” he said.
A Guyanese Easter
Not many Guyanese go through the Easter holidays without having at least a few servings of hot cross buns. Vice Principal of the Carnegie School of Home Economics (CSHE), Ms. Sharmaine Marshall explained the history and significance of the buns.
“In 1361, a monk by the name of Thomas Rodcliffe, he started the tradition of cross buns. He started this tradition by giving the poor cross buns on Good Friday, and as such, it has become a representation of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Cross buns [are] that time of the season where we do share and [there] is an excitement… that we share our cross buns with each other. It is something that is exciting to look forward to,” she said.
To that, Principal of CSHE, Ms. Myrna Lee expanded on the role food plays in Guyana’s cultural make up.
“Food history actually holds lots of fundamental things that make Guyana unique. When all of the races came to Guyana, they came with something distinct and unique that’s attached to their culture, their belief, their value, things that they consider very, very scared to themselves. Inclusive in that, was food and dishes. Food brings people together. It is used for ceremonial reasons: to celebrate birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, if you’re launching a business… the birth of a child or even promotion. So, you don’t find dishes being singled out based on their ethnic influence, but rather they’re being embraced as ‘our thing’. This is a Guyanese dish. So, that makes our food very exciting,” she said.
Mr. Esan Hall, Project Officer at the Ministry of Social Cohesion tells us how Easter truly fosters the spirit of togetherness among Guyanese.
“The minute Mashramani is finished, you see all the children with their ‘caddy old punch’ and different things they would make kites with. [They’d] even tie a string on a plastic bag and fly it. So, you realize that this is something everybody looks forward to. If you look at the open spaces on Easter Monday, you don’t only see one group of people. You see everybody coming together. If everybody is picnicking, you will find people will share their meal and that’s what social cohesion speaks to. Everybody coming together enjoying themselves, living as one. So the traditions that have developed over the years here in Guyana for Easter, is one that pulls the different groups of people, the different religious groups… they pull everybody together and they have one big celebration over this particular weekend,” he said.
Guyanese, Mr. Hall said, have modelled the words of our national motto, choosing togetherness over religious barriers.
“One of the things I know a lot of us can relate to is our motto: “One People, One nation, One destiny”. The Motto tells us that we need to live as one, work together as one for us to achieve one destiny, which is to build Guyana. This is taught to us in schools and what we can see is that persons relate to each other… we try to support each other. We try to live as one… We try to do everything together and you can see it in the various religions,” he said.
The Government of Guyana continues to uphold and support the celebration of religious holidays that promote unity and togetherness among Guyanese. Let us chase after relationship with one another with fervour and intentionality. Happy Easter!